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When students reach out, Clayful's mental health coaches text back within 60 seconds

Launched this week, a new app called Clayful is tackling the dire shortage of mental health support for teens. As waiting lists for therapists grow and schools can't get their hands on enough counselors to serve their students, Clayful is taking a different route. Instead of on-site professionals, the app provides a human coach by text within 60 seconds of a student asking for support.

Working with schools, Clayful meets kids where they are — on their phones. Support is provided through text chats and in real-time when and where students need help, without waiting for an appointment. "Timeliness matters," as Clayful points out, because "Pre-teens and teens experience a rollercoaster of emotions that is filled with sharp drops and quick turns." The idea is to intervene early before a problem intensifies. And, crucially, the platform's goal is to provide kids with tools and strategies that allow them to coach themselves and more easily shift out of emotional dysregulation.

In the two years Clayful spent trialing and finetuning its systems and methodologies at 50 schools across the US, the startup found that "99.5% of chats on Clayful center around daily stressors, setting goals, problem-solving and conflict resolution." If a student seems at risk of crisis, its certified coaches follow codified escalation procedures to reach out to designated school staff or the child's guardian or parent, depending on the time of day and nature of the issue.

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Even before COVID-19, youth mental health was deteriorating. Among US high school students, for example, rates of persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness shot up from 26.1% to 36.7% between 2009 and 2019. The pandemic accelerated the crisis, compounded by a shortage of providers capable of meeting the mounting needs of children and adolescents. Innovative solutions like Clayful can help close the gap between supply and demand, while lowering barriers to care.

A notable twist is that Clayful is available to 100% of a school's student body. Not just kids flagged as requiring care, but any student who needs someone to listen and nudge them in the right direction as they navigate academic and personal challenges.

It's a strategy that should resonate with gen Z and gen Alpha, who are in need of care, receptive to improving their mental health and less burdened by stigmas than previous generations. What could your organization do to assist children and teens in developing core skills — like emotional regulation and resilience — that will help them cope with challenges for years to come?

Innovation of the day